Although the first half of the match against Crystal Palace FC moved slowly, Arsenal FC came out swinging in the second half and brought the fight to them. When the dust settled, the three points belonged to the home team, and all concerns for the Arsenal attack were left by the wayside. What appeared to be a lack of urgency before the half simply disappeared in the second 45 minutes. Arsenal took control of the match and never relinquished it. Perhaps cautioned by the outcome of the Liverpool match, where they let up and relinquished a 1-0 lead to end in a draw, Arsenal seemed determined not to leave any points on the table.
Arsenal FC take the Premier league lead with these three points, leaving Crystal Palace Fc to fight the relegation battle from a far more precarious position than they began the day in. The Palace squad have shown a great deal of improvement since the installment of manager Tony Pulis. Known for his record of rescuing teams from relegation, Pulis has received a great deal of support since his arrival. During the January transfer window, he was allowed to gather five new players to add to the effort in defense of the club’s Premier League status. While Palace won’t be threatening for the top spot in the table anytime soon, many analysts are excited by the prospect of what Pulis might add to the battles at the bottom of the standings. It has been stated that his hiring has moved Crystal Palace into a “best of the worst” status, and has moved them away from what appeared an inevitable date with relegation earlier in the campaign.
Despite the best efforts of Pulis, Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side put on a show on Sunday. The timing and precision of the passing on the attack, supported by a superior awareness and demonstration of ball handling in the midfield, reminded the faithful at Emirates Stadium of why they remain favorites to end up with the title come May. They did not make the mistake that Liverpool made earlier in the day by counting the game as won before it actually was. Instead, they pressed the attack for the entire second half. Despite a great showing by Crystal Palace goalkeeper, Julian Speroni, the inspired creativity of Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain proved too much for the defenders supporting Speroni’s efforts.
It will take some help from Chelsea on Monday night for Wenger’s squad to hold onto the league lead, as Manchester City could wrestle the lead back if they are able to take three points away from that match. The past month has seen a tug-of-war between Arsenal and City, trading the top spot in the table back and forth between them. As little as Wenger is likely to root for the Chelsea squad on most days, he might just hold out a bit of hope that manager Jose Mourinho finds a way to counter the potent scoring attack that Manchester City brings to bear. With this victory over Crystal Palace FC, Arsenal FC have taken the three points they needed and done all they can do on their own to secure the top spot. Now they must watch the fight between Chelsea and City to see if they will be able to hold onto it.
By Shannon Malone